Tuesday, April 19, 2011

AFI Top 100 Countdown #94: PULP FICTION


Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avery
Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer

AFI Top 100 Criteria:

Critical Recognition: Formal commendation in print, television, and digital media.
*"It is exhilaration from beginning to end. It's the movie equivalent of that rare sort of novel where you find yourself checking to see how many pages are left and hoping there are more, not fewer." -Mike Salle 

Major Award Winner: Recognition from competitive events including awards from peer groups, critics, guilds, and major film festivals.

*1995 Won Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Writing directly for the Screen. 
Nominated for Oscars: Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actor in a Supporting in a Supporting Role Samuel L. Jackson, Best Actress in a Support Uma Thurman. Best Director Quentin Tarantino.  Best Film Editing Sally Menke.  Best Picture Lawrence Bender

Popularity Over Time: Includes success at the box office, television and cable airings, and DVD/VHS sales and rentals.

$35,615,000 (USA) 

$8,000,000 (estimated)
*Opening Weekend
$9,311,882 (USA))

Historical Significance: A film's mark on the history of the moving image through visionary narrative devices, technical innovation or other groundbreaking achievements

*"Pulp Fiction quickly came to be regarded as one of the most significant films of its era. In 1995, in a special edition of Siskel & Ebert devoted to Tarantino, Gene Siskel argued that Pulp Fiction posed a major challenge to the "ossification of American movies with their brutal formulas". In Siskel's view,
the violent intensity of Pulp Fiction calls to mind other violent watershed films that were considered classics in their time and still are. Hitchcock's Psycho, Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde, and Stanley Kubrik's Clockwork Orange. Each film shook up a tired, bloated movie industry and used a world of lively lowlifes to reflect how dull other movies had become. And that, I predict, will be the ultimate honor for Pulp Fiction. Like all great films, it criticizes other movies."

Cultural Impact: A film's mark on American society in matters of style and substance.

*"And its impact was even broader than that. It has been described as a "major cultural event", an "international phenomenon" that influenced television, music, literature, and advertising. Not long after its release, it was identified as a significant focus of attention within the growing community of Internet users. Adding Pulp Fiction to his roster of "Great Movies" in 2001, Roger Ebert called it "the most influential film of the decade". Four years later, Time's Corliss wrote much the same: "(unquestionably) the most influential American movie of the 90s".

*Also, let's not forget that a lot of the scenes and phrases are constantly being referred to by other pieces of pop culture.  The Simpsons had a great scene where it parodied the Butch and Marcellus kidnapping scene. As recently as last month, the show Community did an episode where they recreated various scenes from the movie.

Javi- This is a movie where if it wasn’t made by the people involved, such as Tarantino, it wouldn’t work because a lot of moments that, while they are connected, the payoffs seem minor. For example, the whole scene of Vincent and Mia and situation that they went through, the only pay off was that he could go “hey how’re you doing” to Mia in a later scene when Butch throws the fight.  You have all of these moments that seem crazy huge, and in the next set of stories, they’re treated like minor occurrences, which to its own credit of how real life is.  What I really like about Tarantino is all of these characters and events that seem so important to one person and one specific set of situation is completely irrelevant to someone else.

Jonesy-When you were talking about it being meaningless, you mean like life?

Javi-I get what you’re saying, but in a conventional-storytelling-movie-sense, the narrative shouldn’t work but it does.  And I don’t know if it’s the hype (that makes the story work) because this movie has 14 years of history and weight behind the name and the movie, and if maybe that changes my perception, or if it’s just a really great movie.  But I believe that it’s a pretty great movie anyway.

Jonesy- It shouldn’t work but it’s so well written, that it works.  And that’s to give credit to Tarantino’s writing; I mean he’s a great director, but his writing skills are incomparable.  Everything he writes is so amazing. Non-linear story is cool, and one thing I haven’t noticed, is that this whole story takes place within a day.  Which gives Vincent Vega the worst day ever.  They have to go to the apartment to get the briefcase.  Then they have to clean the car, which is the whole Bonnie Situation. And then they’re at the diner.  Then they deliver the briefcase to Marcellus, then that night is the fight which is the same night as Mia/Vincent’s date.  Then the next day is the whole watch situation and then he dies.  Did you notice that anything bad that happens to Vincent happens to him while he’s going to the bathroom? Mia overdoes, he gets shot, and then the diner gets robbed.

Javi-What I liked about the story is that this is one where you have to pay a lot of  attention.  I believe this goes well with Tarantino’s love of cinema and film itself.  You didn’t notice Vincent’s car outside of Butch’s apartment, and that the thing you’re supposed to be enveloped and drawn in to the whole story.  That’s the beauty of this film; it has the good balance of good character moments and a larger story arch.  I mean you look at all these moments with the characters talking where it’s so well done technically, you have the lighting that’s perfect, or the focus goes in and out of one character to the other, with the music fading in and out.  But the next scene you’ll be at a completely different situation that will probably relate to the previous one you just saw, and I really enjoyed that because we’ve been here for 2.5 hours but it didn’t feel like it.  Out of the movies we’ve seen in this countdown (apart from TOY STORY for sentimental reasons) this movie, BLADE RUNNER and YANKEE DOODLE DANDY are my favorites. 

Jonesy- Seeing it again, you’re able to place the pieces together the pieces of what happened in a sequential manner. I always figured out the order of things but not the time span, with all of these events happening within 30 hours of each other, which is cooler. Not counting the flashback with the watch.

Javi-What was the point of having someone like Christopher Walken in that scene?

Jonesy-Well that scene was just to show how important the watch was to Butch because it was the last remaining thing left by his dad. 

Jonesy-I think they’re great, even though you can say that they’re all supporting character and there’s no main character, and they’re all given equal face time, and they all are so developed that you can understand them, but there’s enough subtleties that you can infer a lot more about them if you want. Vincent goes to Amsterdam for 3 years, and we don’t know why.  We figure it's because he is Marcellus’ associate, and, how he greeted him, it must have been for an assignment.  There’s just so much stuff you can draw from the subtleties of each character, even from the people who they turn to in their times of need.  Vincent turn to his drug dealer, and then Jules turn to Jimmy, a friend he’s had. 

Javi- Going back to the movie’s great balance of story.  They’re all very crazy and over the top characters while also being very subtle.  For example, Vincent and Jules, while they’re ridiculous hit men, you could almost make the argument they’re a parody of hit men in movies; they’re very loud and ridiculous.  But then like you said, they say things that are very interesting and give their characters more depth than we know at first.  I just enjoyed that they’re very dynamic. I feel these characters would have fallen flat in any other director’s hands.  They’re all very memorable, like Jimmy Wolf, and he's probably that guy The Most Interesting Man In The World is based off of.  He rolls up to the house with a tuxedo.  Why is he wearing a tuxedo at 9am? And he gets to a place that’s 30 minutes away in 9 minutes?  That is awesome. 

Javi- This is one of my favorites of this countdown up to now because of everything that it brings to the table.  It’s dynamic and versatile, and depending on your points of view, you can take a lot of different things away from this movie.  You can say that its just badass, or you can analyze it to no end.  And just a little thought that bugs me, and maybe you can answer this, is why is that all of these iconic moments in the movie have become so iconic?  Like when Vincent does the kiss to Mia, why did that well become so well known?

Jonesy-Well why does anything become iconic? Someone just takes a hold of something and runs with it.

Javi- B,ut a lot of the times when that happens, it gets to be famous, and they’re very over the top and memorable. 

Jonesy-Not all iconic scene are over the top.  Everyone know what "royale with cheese" is.

Javi-I actually knew that from French.  My teacher did mention it way before I saw this movie. Either he’s a lying mother effer….or..

Jonesy- My impression is that I love the movie so much because it’s a movie that you pick up on new little details every time you watch, plus watching it with someone that has never seen it is also a fun experience.  It’s my favorite on this countdown (so far). 

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